All the King's Men
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All the King's Men

4.06 of 5 stars 4.06  ·  rating details  ·  32,366 ratings  ·  1,363 reviews
More than just a classic political novel, Warren’s tale of power and corruption in the Depression-era South is a sustained meditation on the unforeseen consequences of every human act, the vexing connectedness of all people and the possibility—it’s not much of one—of goodness in a sinful world. Willie Stark, Warren’s lightly disguised version of Huey Long, the onetime Loui...more
Paperback, 438 pages
Published September 1st 1996 by Harcourt Brace, 2nd Harvest edition (first published 1946)
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Jeffrey Keeten
Apr 10, 2014 Jeffrey Keeten rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jeffrey by: On the Southern Literary Trail
"Man is conceived in sin and born in corruption and he passeth from the stink of the didie to the stench of the shroud."

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Robert Penn Warren

Robert Penn Warren is the only person to win the Pulitzer prize for fiction as well as poetry. He won the prize for fiction in 1946 for this very book. If you are lucky enough to have a great aunt who reads, and bought a lot of books in the 1940s, you might take a gander at her books some time and see if she has a first edition, first printing of this book in...more
Steve Sckenda
“Is you is, or is you ain’t my constituency?”
(O Brother Where Art Thou? Coen Brothers’ film, 2000)

Do corrupt and greedy humans beget corrupt and greedy politicians? Do we get the leaders we deserve? Poet Robert Penn Warren received the Pulitzer Prize for his 1946 masterpiece about a corrupt governor of an unnamed Southern state (resembling Louisiana) during the Great Depression of the 1930’s, but Warren poses difficult questions about the nature of human corruption and the nature of evil that...more
Heather
Compelling, overstuffed, overplotted, sexist, labyrinthine, poetic, atmospheric. To me this book's status as The Great American Political Novel seems like a terrific bitter joke, because the author's vision of "politics" is comprised entirely of blackmail, physical intimidation, pork-barreling, rabble-rousing, nepotism, bribery, rigged elections, and hilariously contrived "family values" photo shoots. (I love the scene where a photographer and two aides attempt to wrestle a comatose, foul-smelli...more
Mike
All the King's Men: Robert Penn Warren's Spider Web

"It all began, as I have said, when the Boss, sitting in the black Cadillac which sped through the night, said to me (to Me who was what Jack Burden, the student of history, had grown up to be) "There is always something."
And I said, "Maybe not on the Judge."
And he said, "Man is conceived in sin and born in corruption and he passeth from the stink of the didie to the stench of the shroud. There is always something."


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First Edition, Harcourt Brac...more
Weinz
Oct 14, 2009 Weinz rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Weinz by: Bernie
Shelves: favorites
I finished this book on a plane. I was on a plane coming home from somewhere that I didn't belong and as we coasted onto the tarmac I felt a little like Jack Burden. He was never really comfortable in the shoes that he wore but was constantly striving to find the truth in things. He was looking for the truth while consistently doing the right even when it was hardest. Not to say that I am this all knowing altruistic seeker of truth in all things, quite the opposite, but coming from somewhere I d...more
Gary
Ok......What did i think?? I wish I had read this book a loooooooooooongggggg time ago....... but maybe it was time to read it now. I think every American , whether Democrat, Republican, Independent, or I don't give a shit party, should read it..... It's a very modern topical novel to read now about how corruption can ruin a person,because we have to be right about everything........ instead of trying to work together for the better welfare of

"everyone" in this country.


It's a book that makes yo...more
Kemper
At first glance, Willie Stark seems like he would have been the perfect Tea Party candidate. He uses fiery rhetoric to stir up crowds by claiming to be just like them and that he’s going to bust the heads of those evil ole politicians at the state house to force them the straighten up and do things the right way. But on the other hand, Willie actually knows something about government and uses his tactics to improve the lives of poor people by taxing the wealthy and using that money to do things...more
Andrew
Sep 02, 2007 Andrew added it
All the King’s Men is often promoted as a novel about politics, occasionally even the quintessential novel of American politics. While I did enjoy the portrait of Willie Stark as an archetype political boss, more interesting, to me, is the struggle of the narrator, Jack Burden, to overcome his nihilistic doubts in the face of a world governed by power. Jack claims to overcome his nihilism (“the Great Twitch”) by coming to an understanding of the morality of his own life (the personal and inter-p...more
Mister Jones
Jan 26, 2008 Mister Jones rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Mister Jones by: My Southern Literature Teacher
For my money, I think this is the greatest book in Southern Literature exceeding Faulkner. All the King's Men is much more than the usual purported centrality of Willie Stark's political motives and final demise, and the usual shallow analogies to Huey Long; if anything, the novel's narrator, Jack Bundren, is a cynical person whose life has unraveled. I think the one scene with Jack's father will always stay vivid as the epitome of Southern Grotesque. It is a multi-layer novel--with clarity and...more
Lewis Weinstein
ATKM’s "dead on" characterizations of political behavior are as relevant today as they were when it won a Pulitzer in 1947. Often described as the story of Willie Stark, a thinly disguised fictional stand-in for fabled Louisiana Governor Huey Long, it is really much more that of Jack Burden, Stark’s aide and friend, from whose first person POV the story is told.

Alternately attracted and repulsed by the tangy smells of commitment and corruption, Jack engages our sympathy and intellect as he perso...more
Mike Hart
Read this passage:

A woman only laughs that way a few times in her life. A woman only laughs that way when something has touched her way down in the very quick of her being and the happiness just wells out as natural as breath and the first jonquils and mountain brooks. When a woman laughs that way it always does something to you. It does not matter what kind of a face she has got either. You hear that laugh and feel that you have grasped a clean and beautiful truth. You feel that way because tha...more
Brinda
This book was unlike anything I have ever read before and I doubt I will read many of its caliber ever again. It is an epic, biblical, human yet quintessentially American saga, disguised in the bizarre circumstances surrounding a particular brand of local Southern politics. In Willie Stark, Penn Warren has created the ultimate American antihero -- describing to the tee the populist circus the campaign trail becomes, with Willie playing off the parasitic needs of potential voters and staffers and...more
matt

This book grabbed me by the collar and pulled me in when I picked it up at the bookstore and I couldn't breathe until I finished it.

This is exactly what American politics, in the essential or fundamental sense, are about. Innocense gets you into the game, experience gets you further, ruthlessness gets you ahead.

Its narrated with zest and sarcasm and this particular version is great because it throws in all of Warren's original extras- references, allusions, extra plot points, details, etc. More...more
Jonfaith
Jack Burden is one of my favorite characters. He hovers as a reflection of what could've been, yet his finality terrifies me. The scenes detailing Burden smoking in the dark and the winds arriving from the Canadian north are amazing. Warren eyes both Faulkner and Gibbon. His study of power echoes the Bard, though his poetic flourishes are native-born. He eyes his betters and replicates to placate Carson and Marsa Bill. All The Kings Men is regarded as the best example of the political novel. I'm...more
Larry Bassett
I like politics. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that I have been involved with politics for a long time at a lot of different levels. Mostly my heart is with third party politics. This book has a special interest to me although I have never read it. The title is very familiar to me but I can’t say exactly why that is.

I have come to believe that anyone who is successful in politics and has been elected is probably someone who is intellectually dishonest. After all, can you imagine some...more
Kathy
Wow, this is a fantastic book! The story and the characters are first-rate, but it is the language that really got me. Sentence after sentence of verbiage that is so evocative, so perfect, you just want to savor it, to make it last, running its sweetness over your tongue and your teeth and just keeping the taste of it around as long as possible.

I knew for sure that this was going to be a rare and wonderful read when Jack Burden, the narrator, described his own nose as a hooked, askew, cartilagin...more
Matt
All the King’s Men is one of my favorite books, and I find it hard to write about my favorite books. When you are swept away by something – a book, a movie, a girl – all objectivity tends to disappear. Instead of pointed analysis, cold-eyed criticism, and thoughtful chin-stroking, there is gushing and platitudes and hyperbole.

In fact, instead of writing a review, I prefer to strip naked and run around the block screaming Robert Penn Warren’s many virtues.

Okay, I’m back.

There are a lot of great...more
Teresa
I first read this in Oct '06 and just re-read it for a discussion that was held in conjunction with this year's Louisiana Book Festival. It's amazing what one forgets in just 2 years, but what I didn't forget was Warren's lyrical way with words and structure, and the questioning, many times sardonic voice of his narrator, Jack Burden. It was a pleasure to read it again.

It took me so long to read this book in the first place because I thought it was going to be 'just' a fictionalized account of H...more
Nate
This is one of my favorite novels - really, the book that helped me define what a novel even is. There's a real breadth to the action of this novel and characters that are real in ways I hadn't come across in a novel before. I found myself equally drawn to the quiet lyrical moments of this and the more declarative sections of action and character manipulation.

The overall plot - political intrigue in Louisiana politics - is so secondary to my enjoyment that I almost forget that is the setting. To...more
Thing Two
Jack Burden is a political reporter who comes to work for Willie Stark, eventually becoming his right-hand man. Burden's life is interwoven with Stark's as the later quickly rises from an idealist rural lawyer to Governor of Louisiana, but as the nursery rhyme goes, when they fall from the wall All the King's Men can't put Humpty together again.

This book won a Pulitzer in 1947, and the movie version produced in 1949 won three Oscar's, including one for Best-Picture. Loved it!
Franky
Warren’s All the King’s Men is deeply political in story, yet it also very insightful in its point of view, examining one man’s role and perspective towards the monumental rise and fall of a political figure. As much as the plot is devoted to Willie Stark, it is more so linked to narrator Jack Burden, his ideologies about the world of politics, campaigning and playing hard ball and dirty politics, being Willie’s right hand man, and his coming to terms with the tragic consequences that unfold lat...more
Ensiform
Jack Burden, tough-talking former reporter, chronicles his work for Willie Stark, a Louisiana politician in the 1930s who metamorphoses from idealistic sap to well-meaning demagogue to corrupt, and corrupting, center of the machine. As he relates the Boss’s rise and fall in the pool halls and back rooms of Mason City, he also tells of the ennui that took him away from his doctoral thesis; his friendship that developed into love for Anne Stanton, who drifted apart from him because of his aimless...more
Douglas Perry
Great books don't seem to live on anymore, at least not in the same, swaggering way they did before information overload hit us all. But I refuse to be completely sucked into the stream, the obsession with what's next, so every year or so I return to my favorite comfort reading, Robert Penn Warren's 1946 masterpiece, "All the King's Men."

The Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is about the corrupt, spellbinding politician Willie Stark, who makes goodness out of badness because "there isn't anything el...more
Coy
May 04, 2008 Coy rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Coy by: Angela
I can understand why people call this a classic. It sort of reminds me of the Great Gatsby, one of my favorite novels. I can also hear the narration at the end. It's deep, nostalgic, matter of fact and meloncholy-- like saying goodbye. That reminds me of A River Runs Through It. After all is said and done, however, I can't say that All the Kings Men, to me, was as good as a River Runs Through It or Gatsby.

This I write much to the dismay of my girlfriend, who not only loves All the King's Men, b...more
Ewurama
I read All the King’s Men several months ago after hearing from someone how much he and his book club had enjoyed the book. It had been sitting on my shelf for some time, and that recommendation was all the motivation I needed to finally pick up the book.

All the King’s Men is often referred to as a great novel of American politics—what a misnomer! Let’s not even focus on the “great” part; let’s talk first about “politics.” It’s not a book about politics; it’s a book about a man—and not the man...more
Emma
This is one of my favorite books. In addition to writing novels, Robert Penn Warren was a poet laureate. When I was first introduced to this book I was told that it was a lyrical novel, which I assume means that its prose have rhythm and tempo. In addition to being a captivating story, the style of the book is constantly engaging. I love the description at the beginning of the novel when the characters are driving down a highway road in Mississippi at night. The author sets the tempo of the mome...more
Stephen
This whole book can be summed up by a quote from the first chapter.

“The end of man is knowledge, but there is one thing he can't know. He can't know whether knowledge will save him or kill him. He will be killed, all right, but he can't know whether he is killed because of the knowledge which he has got or because of the knowledge which he hasn't got and which if he had it, would save him.”

Knowledge killed Judge Irwin as sure as a .38 shoot to the chest. Knowledge killed Adam Stanton after that...more
Patricia Medis
This novel about the rise and fall of Willie Stark is exquisitely written by Robert Penn Warren. What impressed me most was Warren's ability to describe the nuances of being human. There isn't a character in the book who is a stereotype each person is drawn in such a waythat you knew them with all their eccentricities. Then their relationships with each other and how they move through time.
I highly recommend it!
Karen
This book as been so comprehensively reviewed that I won't add to the list, except to say one thing: read the originally published version, and stay far, far away from the 2001 expanded / unabridged / "restored" version. That version is a work of utter hubris on the part of Noah Polk. More does not mean better, and editors are not evil numbers-crunchers.
Pat
Jun 30, 2008 Pat rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: all my friends
Recommended to Pat by: book club pick
Still fresh in its delineation of the web of politics, compelling well drawn characters, beautiful writing that pulls you through an ever accelerating plot, an end so satisfying that you can close the book without regret, this book is an incomparable read.
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Cass Mastern 12 78 Apr 15, 2014 06:02AM  
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Robert Penn Warren was an American poet, novelist, and literary critic, and was one of the founders of New Criticism. He was also a charter member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers. He is the only person to have won Pulitzer Prizes for both fiction and poetry. He won the Pulitzer in 1947 for his novel All the King's Men (1946) and won his subsequent Pulitzer Prizes for poetry in 1957 and then...more
More about Robert Penn Warren...
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“The end of man is knowledge, but there is one thing he can't know. He can't know whether knowledge will save him or kill him. He will be killed, all right, but he can't know whether he is killed because of the knowledge which he has got or because of the knowledge which he hasn't got and which if he had it, would save him.” 1131 likes
“[F]or when you get in love you are made all over again. The person who loves you has picked you out of the great mass of uncreated clay which is humanity to make something out of, and the poor lumpish clay which is you wants to find out what it has been made into. But at the same time, you, in the act of loving somebody, become real, cease to be a part of the continuum of the uncreated clay and get the breath of life in you and rise up. So you create yourself by creating another person, who, however, has also created you, picked up the you-chunk of clay out of the mass. So there are two you's, the one you create by loving and the one the beloved creates by loving you. The farther those two you's are apart the more the world grinds and grudges on its axis. But if you loved and were loved perfectly then there wouldn't be any difference between the two you's or any distance between them. They would coincide perfectly, there would be perfect focus, as when a stereoscope gets the twin images on the card into perfect alignment.” 67 likes
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